Just before the southeastern US ground to a halt due to an onslaught of snow and ice (we’re currently on our fourth snow day in North Mississippi), Mark Zuckerberg announced big changes to Facebook’s algorithm.
You can read his full announcement here:
If, after reading his announcement, you have questions, join the club. In the last few days, we’ve been reading many experts’ opinions on what the changes really mean and how it will affect Facebook business pages. The truth is we don’t know for sure what will happen. Until the updates are implemented and we have some data to examine, we’re all guessing.
What we know
Facebook wants to prioritize meaningful engagement between friends. They are going back to their roots before brands, memes and fake news took over. Their users want to see pictures of a friend’s new baby, a cousin’s trip to Paris and a nephew's graduation. Like a good business, Facebook is giving its users what they want.
Research shows scrolling through social media passively makes us all feel worse not better. Facebook doesn’t want to contribute to that. They want to inspire meaningful conversations.
In December 2017, Henry Silverman, Operations Integrity Specialist and Lin Huang, Engineer at Facebook published a blog post about “engagement bait”. As one of the earliest signs of the changes to come, Facebook has already started to reduce the reach on posts encouraging fans to like, share or comment to win a prize.
These two pieces fit together because posts encouraging you to “comment to win” elicits replays like “I want to win”, which isn’t considered meaningful conversation.
“You'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
Zuck is pretty clear about where pages rank in this new world. He does offer an exception for brands who “encourage meaningful interactions between people”.
True engagement is the key. If your posts are garnering real conversations and long form comments, you may not see as much shift in your reach. Brands whose posts rarely see any interaction will likely see the most change in reach.
What’s been speculated
Some questions have been raised about Facebook ads. While neither Zuck’s post nor the blog post by Adam Mosseri mention any changes to Facebook ads. What has been speculated is that as businesses’ organic reach declines, more businesses will buy Facebook ads. Facebook ads work as an auction so the law of supply and demand applies. Most marketers can expect the cost of ads to increase.
In the past marketers have encouraged brands to push out content on Facebook at least daily and sometimes multiple times a day. Now brands are weighing publishing a high-volume of low-cost posts vs a lower-volume of higher-cost posts.
And finally, this won’t be the final change for Facebook business pages. Earlier this year Facebook tested an “Explore” tab on newsfeeds where business, brands and media posts were sent to die, er, live. While this explore tab is not being implemented now, its possible that’s the next move for Facebook pages.
Steps you can take now
We can analyze this thing to death, but if your business receives leads and purchases from Facebook you want to know what to do to prevent a hemorrhage of sales due to Facebook’s changes. Since we don’t know the full fallout, we start with what we do know. Below are the steps we’re taking with our clients over the next couple of months:
- Look at your Facebook data. We use Sprout Social to publish content for our clients and it offers some great data on engagement, a big deal in the new Facebook algorithm. Facebook Insights also offers some great data. Know where you are now when it comes to engagement. What did your average reach and engagement look like over 2017? Create a baseline so you know when you start to see your reach decline.
- Analyze your top ten or twenty posts based on engagement in 2017. What made them engaging? Can you recreate similar posts once or twice a week?
- Reconsider your like/share contests or at the very least compare your reach and participation with the contests you’ve run over the last year.
- Research social media influencers in your area. You may be looking at geographic or industry influencers. How can you involve them in spreading your message? Know the laws when it comes to influencer marketing. These personalities often have high engagement on their posts and their posts will continue to be seen.
- Brainstorm how your company can use Facebook Groups to create a loyal following.
- Plan a Facebook Live video no less than once a month, even better if you can manage once a week.
- Learn more about targeting through Facebook ads.
Facebook stopped being a “free” advertising media for businesses a long time ago. Whether you’re paying with your time, a give away, or ad dollars, you’ve invested in the Facebook framework. For a lot of businesses it’s a great way to connect with their customers and prospects. The potential of Facebook isn’t changing, it’s just becoming more expensive to play.
Facebook ads do not just target the Newsfeed (although that’s the best position). They also target network partners so your ad may show up in apps and on other websites. Targeting and strategy for Facebook just got more important.
We’ve also noticed Facebook as a referral source for company websites decreased significantly last year. We can no longer expect Facebook to shuttle their users to our websites, but that doesn’t mean blogs are out. Facebook is just one method of drawing visitors to your website. Blogs and other top notch content will continue to aid you in Google searches and on other social sites like LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
Financial experts encourage their clients to diversify their investments for a reason. We can’t guarantee that what has always worked will always work. Marketing is very similar. In this changing world, businesses must diversify the way they reach their consumers both online and offline. It’s time to rethink Google Adwords.
We are watching these changes closely. Over the next few weeks our team will write articles detailing how you can use alternative tactics to continue to see a good return from Facebook marketing. In the meantime, don’t panic. Know your baseline for engagement, watch your analytics and start creating a new strategy to meet your 2018 goals.
Don't tackle the 2018 Facebook algorithm changes alone. Schedule a 30 minute strategy session and walk away with a high-level overview of your next steps.